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Blackest Night: Superman #1 (of 3)

Written by James Robinson

Art by Eddy Barrows & Ruy José w/ Julio Ferreira

Cover by Eddy Barrows & Nei Ruffino; Variant cover by Shane Davis & Sandra Hope

Colors by Rod Reis; Letters by Steve Wands

Published by DC Comics

Review by THE Rev. O.J. Flow

A week ago, in my praise for Blackest Night so far, I mentioned how I originally intended to follow the big tale by way of the main series itself and Green Lantern and that I was already rethinking that strategy.  This series right here is really what caused me to stray, and that's a good thing.  A big lure for me in this whole friggin' epic was to get Kal-L, the Superman of Earth-2, and it's apparent that where we can find him is not in the 8-part series (for now, at least) but Blackest Night: Superman.  I'm generally not a fan of spinoffs on top of company crossovers, but Blackest Night: Superman #1 has me whistling a whole other tune.

Writer James Robinson has been so occupied with Superman and much of his supporting cast in locales like New Krypton, Metropolis, and all points in between, he's barely touched on the Man of Steel's hometown of Smallville.  If nothing else, this first chapter of Superman & Co.'s exposure to the Blackest Night invasion of the DC Universe serves as a paean to the small town America that nurtured Kal-El in his formative years.  Acknowledging that much of the television show now takes place in Metropolis, Smallville (Fridays this Fall on the CW!) hasn't given us this rustic a look at the Midwest city in the last several seasons COMBINED.  Robinson sets the scene in Part 1, "A Sleepy Little Town," very much like a horror film in that he pans across the town over the course of a day and focuses on the locals, including Pete Ross, in their day-to-day activity.  There's an almost idyllic calm over things before they find themselves the victims of a force of terror like they've never seen before.  At the town drive-in movie theater, Friday the 13th is playing on the big screen, and Jason Voorhees would be a welcome sight over what is now running amok in Smallville, Kansas.

Did I mention that the story unfolds in Smallville?  There is one subplot on New Krypton, where we find that the reach of the Black Lanterns makes it even to that new settlement.  It only gets a couple of pages in this issue, though it stands to reason that it'll get a lot more coverage in the remaining two chapters.  In Smallville, Superman and Superboy are with Ma Kent on the national day of memorial, paying tribute to the late Pa Kent.  They encounter two of the more relevant casualties in Superman's personal universe, and the book's cover(s) pretty much gives away the biggest threat.  One of the more interesting aspects of Blackest Night: Superman #1 is the whole angle of the Black Lanterns detecting the spectrum of emotions found in their intended victims.  Much of the townsfolk is fairly one-note in terms of emotion (mostly fear), but throughout the better part of the book we see that what makes Clark and Conner so super is their wider range of feelings, sometimes displaying various things all at once.  Colorist Rod Reis has a field day with the concept, and it's not really spoiling anything to mention that the orange of avarice is the only one not detected in the Men of Steel.  I look forward to seeing how this plays out over the rest of the series.

Robinson is aided by some fantastic imagery by Eddy Barrows (with the steady inks of Ruy José and Julio Ferreira).  I've been exposed to Barrows’ work in other Superman books and Teen Titans, and he's been hit or miss for me.  Here, he really steps it up and has made me a believer.  Robinson instills a sense of dread right from the opening page, and Barrows drives it home from cover to cover.  In fact, the best compliment I can pay them is how seamlessly this work fits in with what we're getting in the main book, Blackest Night.  Barrows also gets several splash pages to really unload when the action develops, and every occasion is brimming with energy.

As it stands right now, Blackest Night: Superman is where we can find how the threat of the Black Lanterns affects Superman, Superboy and Supergirl.  If the debut issue is any indication, this is an exceptional supplement to what has so far proven to be a spectacular crossover series that has renewed my faith in the genre.

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